The Indian Super League started 2020 with a bang. The four games in the first week saw 13 goals, two clean sheets, no draws and some massive results.
In the first ISL game of the new decade, Bengaluru FC led by Sunil Chhetri beat then league leaders FC Goa 2-1 at the Kanteerava stadium.
A day later, the other members of the top four locked horns in Mumbai as ATK snapped the hosts’ unbeaten run to record a 2-0 win and go to the top of the points charts.
On Sunday, Kerala Blasters fans witnessed a rare home win as the hosts put up a show to beat Hyderabad FC 5-1 before Odisha FC saw off Chennaiyin FC to notch their third straight home win.
Here are some key takeaways from the first week of 2020 in the ISL:
Sunil Chhetri: Consistency personified
It’s 2020, but Sunil Chhetri is still the biggest match-winner in Indian Football. Even at 35, the Indian captain is showing no signs of slowing down and remains a pivotal figure for club and country.
He showed exactly why on Friday when he proved to be the difference between Bengaluru and FC Goa. The visitors shaded the overall play but were undone by the genius of Chhetri who struct twice against the run of play to give Bengaluru a 2-1 win.
His composure, quality and sheer determination in front of goal was on display at the Kanteerava as he took his tally for the season to seven goals.
There have been 27 different Indian scorers in the ISL that have contributed 39 goals so far this season with Chhetri accounting for 18% of those alone.
Despite a relatively poor season for Bengaluru FC in front of goal, Chhetri’s numbers haven’t dropped. He is now just two goals shy of matching his tally for last season.
In the all-time charts, the 35-year-old has scored 37 times in the ISL and is only four goals behind FC Goa’s Ferran Corominas who is the league’s all-time leading goalscorer.
Averaging a goal every two games, Chhetri is here to stay for a while and is likely to be the lone Indian among the top goalscorers’ charts for a while to come.
ATK’s performance of substance
ATK, who entered the new year trailing FC Goa in the points table, have now regained the top spot. They looked like worthy leaders after putting in a solid away performance to beat a high-flying Mumbai City FC who had won their previous three matches.
After being put under the cosh by Mumbai City in the early minutes, Antonio Habas’ men slowly gained control of the game and produced the moments of quality during their good spell in the game to decide the encounter, Pronay Halder and Michael Soosairaj’s well-taken goals gave the visitors a 2-0 lead at the break.
In the second half, Mumbai City threw the kitchen sink at ATK who had to dig deep to preserve their lead an take all three points back home.
Mumbai City missed some gilt-edged chances and saw some refereeing decisions go against them, but ATK’s dogged display in the second half earned the luck they enjoyed.
The Kolkata outfit lead the table just on goal difference but their six-point lead over the fifth-placed team should give them enough belief to advance to the semi-finals.
Odisha FC’s Bhubaneswar boost
Odisha had to wait for a very long time to truly complete their shift from Delhi and settle into their new home in Bhubaneswar.
Odisha were finally able to move to Bhubaneswar in December after playing three of their home games in Pune. The hosts got off to the perfect start at their new home when they beat Jamshedpur FC 2-1.
As Chennaiyin came calling on Monday, it was all about building on that inaugural night in Bhubaneswar. Josep Gombau’s men did just that and put out a commanding display to win 2-0.
After missing a series of chances and surviving a penalty at the other end, Odisha took the lead through Jerry Mawihmingthanga in the 37th minute and doubled it instantly through Vinit Rai four minutes later.
The home side resisted a bit of pressure from Chennaiyin in the second half and saw the game off without conceding a shot on goal.
With two wins in two at Bhubaneswar, Odisha FC sit fifth just a point behind the semi-final places. Four of their remaining seven matches are at home and their form at the Kalinga stadium could see them make an unexpected appearance in the semi-final.
Kerala Blasters’ joy
Kerala Blasters went winless for ten matches before the match against Hyderabad in Kochi where they had won just two games in the past two campaigns.
Things were expected to change when fellow strugglers Hyderabad were in town, but Bobo threatened to send the home fans down the same old miserable road when he fired Hyderabad in front in the 14th minute.
However, led by their skipper Batholomew Ogbeche, the Blasters engineered a remarkable comeback.
Ogbeche equalised in the 33rd minute before Drobarov put the Blasters in front six minutes later. Things got better for Eelco Schattorie’s men as Messi Bouli added a third at the stroke of half-time.
Kerala showed no signs of relenting as Seityasen Singh scored their fourth goal in the 59th minute before Ogbeche completed the rout in the 74th minute.
The win pushed the Blasters to the seventh spot, preserving their hopes of reaching the semi-finals this season. Still five points behind the fourth-placed Mumbai City FC, Kerala Blasters would need more of the same to have any kind of a chance.
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